SALEM, Ore. – A condemned inmate who was scheduled to be executed next month is slamming Gov. John Kitzhaber for giving him a reprieve, saying the governor didn't have the guts to carry out the execution.
Two-time murderer Gary Haugen had voluntarily given up his legal challenges, saying he wants to be executed in protest of a criminal justice system he views as broken. But Kitzhaber on Tuesday said he won't allow anyone to be executed while he is in office, calling Oregon's death penalty scheme "compromised and inequitable."
But in a telephone interview with the Statesman Journal on Friday, Haugen mocked Kitzhaber.
"I feel he's a paper cowboy," he said. "He couldn't pull the trigger."
Haugen's criticism reverses his earlier praise of Kitzhaber's decision during an interview with The Oregonian. He told the Portland newspaper that Kitzhaber cited some of the same criticism of the death penalty that Haugen has raised.
After further reflection, Haugen said he came to the conclusion that the governor "basically pulled a coward's move" by acting on his personal beliefs instead of carrying out the will of Oregon voters, who reinstated the death penalty in 1984.
Haugen said he learned of the reprieve when he was summoned from an outdoor exercise break at the state penitentiary and allowed to read the governor's statement.
Kitzhaber called Oregon's death penalty system "a perversion of justice," saying the state only executes people who volunteer. Since capital punishment was legalized 27 years ago, only two people have been executed. Both of them, like Haugen, waived their legal challenges.
Kitzhaber encouraged "all Oregonians to engage in the long overdue debate that this important issue deserves" and said he would ask lawmakers to consider potential reforms during the 2013 legislative session.
The 49-year-old inmate said he plans to ask lawyers about possible legal action to fight Kitzhaber's temporary reprieve, which lasts until the governor leaves office. A Marion County judge had twice signed a death warrant ordering Haugen's execution. The first was reversed when the state Supreme Court intervened; the second was overruled by Kitzhaber two weeks before the Dec. 6 execution.
"I'm going to have to get with some serious legal experts and figure out really if he can do this," Haugen said. "I think there's got to be some constitutional violations. Man, this is definitely cruel and unusual punishment. You don't bring a guy to the table twice and then just stop it."